Moving broiler houses is a two person job. You need one person to drive the tractor and another in the house with the chickens prodding them forward. Without someone in the house, the chickens tend towards the back as the house moves forward and the end up getting run over. It’s not pretty.
This was Rob’s weekend to work, but he called in sick this morning which left me to fend for myself. It wasn’t a big deal as most chores can be done by one person. We did have to cancel the tours for the day because I didn’t have time to do everything and taking care of the animals was the obvious priority. The biggest problem, of course, was moving the broiler houses.
Thankfully, Rita had come in early to help get the market ready. I gave her a quick tutorial on moving chicken houses and we got to work. Moving the first two houses was uneventful, but we weren’t so lucky with the third one.
The third house contains our oldest birds, the ones that will go to slaughter this week and next. Two weeks ago, one of the chickens got his leg badly tangled in the grass. I don’t know how long he’d been stuck when I found him, but his foot was swollen to about 3x its normal size. I actually had to cut him free with my pocket knife. I didn’t expect him to last the day, but he did. He hasn’t really been growing and can’t walk well, but he’s been holding his own.
Normally when we wind up with a gimpy bird, we have to carry it along when we move the houses, but this guy has always been able to propel himself forward without assistance. I warned Rita about him, but told her she shouldn’t have to worry about him. This was her first time helping and I didn’t want him to freak her out.
We got the house hooked up and I started to drag it forward when I hear her yelling at me to stop which I did. I knew something was wrong because we still had a long way to move the house. I ran inside and there is the gimp, trapped under the back. We tried to pull him out, but there was nothing we could do. He was stuck. There is no easy way to move the houses backwards so I assured Rita that these things happened and that it wasn’t her fault. It has happened to Steve. It has happened to me. That’s just chickens for you. I told her not to watch, got back on the tractor and pulled the house the rest of the way forward.
I ran back to retrieve what I assumed would be a dead chicken before Rita could find him and was shocked to find he was still alive and largely unhurt! He had once again gotten his leg tangled and that was why he hadn’t been able to get out of the way when the house started moving. (We’ve been moving chickens since April and this is the only chicken I’ve ever seen get tangled like this. And he’s done it twice!) I cut him free and put him back in the house.
I fully expected to find him dead during the afternoon feedings, but as of 4:15 he was still alive and well. Well, he was alive. He still can’t really walk and because he is such a runt he gets picked on by the other chickens. But he is still hanging on. If he is still around on Wednesday, I think Rita might need to take him home and make him her pet.